Friday, June 19, 2015


God used self-righteous indignation to change my life.  I was beginning my senior year of high school.  After three years of charcoal gray blazers (which only I buttoned because I thought I looked older, more authoritative that way), I was looking forward to the navy blue, "you've made it to the top" blazer at last.  When we arrived at the all-girls' school, we were herded into the auditorium and informed that the schedules weren't quite ready.  Instead of being delighted at a chance to catch up with all my friends, I was incensed that things were not going according to plan.  I always loved the first day of school, and in high school, we got to go to different classrooms and meet different teachers and I was ready to impress them all with my intelligence!

After a full day sitting restlessly in the auditorium, I was indignant at the waste of time, and even more irritated when we were told that we might not get our schedules the next day.  I fumed on the bus ride home, and when I walked into our house, I told my mother that I wished I had gone to the public school after all.  My parents had been encouraging me to switch all summer, since Vatican II had upended the nuns, the catechism, Latin and our psyches, and they resented having to pay tuition at a school that they considered barely Catholic any more.  But since it was my senior year, they hadn't insisted.

My mother, no fool, replied that I still could go to the public school, made a phone call, and the next morning I found myself sitting with her and talking to the guidance counselor at the public high school.  I assured the counselor that I had no desire to take any more science or math, that I would be delighted to take Creative Writing, and because I wanted to go into politics, I'd love to take Sociology and Economics. Only later did I discover that the smart kids were taking Physics and Calculus, AP English and History, and I was in all the dummy classes.

What saved me was Mrs. Cohen, my basic English teacher, who noticed that I got perfect scores on the spelling tests she gave (I had gone to the National Spelling Bee!) and asked if I were interested in being switched into AP English.  The only downside was that I had to give up Creative Writing since they were the same period. When I think of it now, it seems as if the school were indicating that you could be creative or advanced placement material, but not both at once.  So I made the move into the one class where I could meet most of the intelligent students in one fell swoop, but all the changes were so sudden that I spent several afternoons in the nurse's office with severe stomach aches, which were my body's way of dealing with stress.  Mrs. Cohen had also asked me if I'd like to be on the Literary Committee of the Yearbook, and I'd said yes to that as well, so I had another group of students to get to know.  I had gone from being at the top of the heap in my old high school, to a new student who had worn uniforms for three years and had no idea how to dress or where any of the classrooms were in a much bigger campus, and knew nobody except my best friend who lived down the street but was a year behind me.  

At lunch time the first day, I was walking with my cafeteria tray and wondering where I should sit, when a beautiful blonde girl waved and invited me to join her.  She introduced me to several other girls, who were all in my class, and I began to feel a little less alone.  Several days later, she suddenly said, "Oh, there's that John Hazard over there selling Honor Society sweatshirts.  I hope his booth falls down on him!"  I followed her glance and saw a good-looking blonde guy and wondered why she was wishing disaster upon him. I learned later that he was one of the front-runners for Valedictorian and considered a bit too self-satisfied, but I was always interested in intelligent people and later encountered him when I switched to AP English, and then discovered he was also the Literary Editor of the Yearbook, so I had a chance to get to know him better as the year progressed.   

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